Make your own olive oil in 23 easy steps

Olive crates from the harvestThere are many ways to make your own olive oil. This is my own personal recipe. Feel free to modify it to make it work for you.

In my experience, there are three essential things you’ll need: good olives, good friends, and good neighbors.

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your life. Marinate in thoughts of living overseas for years and years.
  2. Before your heart becomes hard, go.
  3. Count your blessings when the one you love agrees to join you.
  4. Wander the globe together. Live in Northern Japan, then big city Tokyo. Stir in trips to China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Flavor to taste.
  5. Meet friendly, warm New Zealanders everywhere you go.
  6. Move to New Zealand. Because, why not?
  7. Live in the capital city of Wellington. Love it.
  8. Listen when the one you love comes home one day and says, “I’ve found paradise, and I want us to go live there.” Always be open to opportunity.
  9. Go together to look at paradise, which is a simple 20 acre property with an olive grove in the Wairarapa valley, outside Wellington.
  10. Fall in love with the olive trees the second you see them. Say yes.
  11. Move out to the country, without knowing a thing about olive trees, and having never lived in a rural setting before. Ignore the fear. (You have lived in more difficult places than this.)
  12. Meet the neighbors. Appreciate them. They are good and kind and you will come to rely on them in a way you have never relied on neighbors before. Help them in return, every chance you can. They are precious.
  13. Learn about the trees in your grove. Discover that they are not all just ‘olive trees.’ They are Barnea, and Leccino, and Frantoio, and more. Learn the difference. Read books. Talk to other olive growers who are happy to share their love of these incredible trees.
  14. Watch your olives grow. Take care of them. Learn how and when to prune the trees, how and when to protect them against monsters like ‘peacock spot’ and ‘bacterial blast.’
  15. When the fruit (yes, olives are fruit) in your grove are just about one-third green, one-third black, and one-third half way between green and black, ask your city friends and your neighbors to help with the harvest.
  16. Ask other growers about how and where to get olives pressed for oil, because you don’t really know.
  17. Call an olive press and schedule yourself in. Try to be calm and act like you do this every day.
  18. Borrow harvest equipment (nets and rakes and crates) from anyone you can.
  19. On the day of the big harvest, when you see your friends and your neighbors and the one you love working in the olive grove, pause for a moment. Become deeply overwhelmed with gratitude. This is your life, and it is good.
  20. Drop the olives off at the press that evening, because olives must be pressed within 24 hours after harvesting or they start to ferment.
  21. Pick up the oil the next day. Listen gleefully when the woman who owns the press says, “Your oil is beautiful.” Take her words home like a treasure.
  22. Taste the oil. Be shocked. This is not like any olive oil you have ever tasted before. Suddenly realize that all the mass-produced supermarket oil is not real olive oil. Taste your oil again – your very own oil! Taste the grassy opening notes, the mild and fruity middle, the strong peppery bang at the end.
  23. Become overwhelmed with gratitude all over again.

Read the full story in the bestselling book from Random House New Zealand: ‘Moon Over Martinborough: How an American city boy became a Kiwi farmer’.

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10 thoughts on “Make your own olive oil in 23 easy steps

  1. john

    Very nicely put: I’ve known you and CJ for a few years now, know the olive grove – and it’s AMAZING oil, have paddled, swum and been cleaned by the river, love the chance to wander around the garden and watch it evolve under your protective eye, and even have 6 jars of plum jam that came from your trees tucked away for “special”.

    With all that, I still teared up at your recipe. It struck a chord – it is so nice to have been out there in other parts of the world for years and then to come Home, knowing that it’s worth every step it took to get there.
    xx

  2. Moon Over Martinborough Post author

    Thanks John. This place wouldn’t be the same without your help!

  3. Marc

    Hi,

    I just discovered your blog. I’m french and I heard about NZ 3 month ago by chance. Now, I just want to get there and live in that so much beautiful place. I can’t explain to me but it sounds like I ever dream of…

    I love your words, very well written. Thanks a lot it helps me a lot :) For sure, I want to make my own olive oil ! ;)

    So I’m gonna read your blog (and first of all the one about yurt) and some others and “pre-heat my life, marinate in thoughts of living overseas” :)

    1. Moon Over Martinborough Post author

      Salut Marc! Thanks for reading. J’ai etudie la francais a l’universite, et j’adore la langue. Good luck with your dream!

  4. madonnadelpiatto

    this is such a wonderful post! We are gorging on freshly pressed oil at the moment, it’s a feast! It’s been a very small harvest but we are happy anyway. We have enough for bruschetta, pasta and salads and we’ll use the oil of last year for the rest. Ciao from Assisi. Letizia

  5. gigi

    OMG, what lovely stories and an amazing place to live! Do you make your living selling this wonderful home made olive oil? Thank you for sharing these fabulous stories! I’ve been to Australia and on the surface it seems absolutely beautiful and is amazing but once you are there a while you realize it really is out to kill you. I hope New Zealand isn’t the same…is it?

    I suppose there is always a price for paradise. Thank you for giving me a peak.

    1. Moon Over Martinborough Post author

      We’re a very small operation, so we don’t make our living selling the oil. My partner and I both have day jobs, but the olive oil is our labor of love.

      And lucky for us we don’t have the deadly spiders and hungry crocodiles that lurk in Australia!

      Thanks so much for your nice comments.

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